of the many boats that are berthed at the Village
West Marina, in Stockton, Calif., on June 8, 2016.
Stockton's many marinas are a perfect jumping off
point for all sorts of aquatic fun, from
houseboating to kayaking, waterskiing, personal
watercraft, and otherwise paddling about.
wife and I just checked into a small yacht. Overnight. It’s
something I’d never considered doing before, but it
suddenly made all the sense in the world.
yacht in question, an Airbnb rental, was docked at the
Village West Marina in Stockton, Calif. The plan was to
have a Friday night meal on the water at the Garlic
Brothers restaurant (try the house gumbo — it’s
fantastic) and get back to the boat to lounge and watch
the sun go down over the water.
hours later, we were still laughing with a couple tables
full of locals sitting nearby. Live music, the warm breeze
off the water, and people passing fruity drinks almost
gave this relaxed Delta marina a tropical air.
are more than a dozen marinas clustered around the
southern end of the California Delta in Stockton, a river
town where ships you may think are too big for the Delta
can be spotted steaming through, nevertheless.
Historically, this region has always been a good
jumping-off point — for Gold Rush miners and, now, for
commerce headed for the Central Valley and southern
Sierra. It’s also a logical place to get in and around
the water by kayaking, water skiing or simply lazing
around a boat deck, filling your lungs full of fresh air.
And, we discovered, you can be a Delta boat owner for even
just a night, thanks to Airbnb, which has an entire page
devoted to boat lodging.
was well after dark but still before closing time, when we
finally made it back down the dock to our accommodations:
a 46-foot luxury yacht named the Island Oasis.
was easily the cleanest — and nicest — boat I’ve
ever been on, with a master bedroom (in which I had my
best night of sleep in weeks), another two-bunk bedroom, a
six-seat dinette, kitchen, TV and VCR and two heads —
which is nautical parlance for "restrooms."
There was also a paddleboat and stand-up paddleboard.
owners offer a variety of cruises, too. We didn’t book
that in time, but you can — just make reservations
several weeks ahead, not spontaneously, like we did.
of our Saturday morning consisted of just sitting on the
Island Oasis’ bow, watching the holiday boaters roar out
into the Delta and soaking up the sun and breeze. We had
breakfast at Bob’s at the Marina, a ‘50s-flavored
breakfast and lunch spot next to Garlic Brothers — try
the chili cheese omelet.
it was off to downtown Stockton on our quest for a little
urban kayaking. The area definitely has its own vibe.
walked along the pathway lining the Downtown Stockton
Marina on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon over Memorial Day
weekend, watching the breeze ruffle the sail-shaped shades
hanging high above the docks — easily the most artistic
and visually attractive boat berths I’ve seen on the
water was calm, and a couple restaurants on the waterfront
did brisk lunch business. But other than a few joggers,
there were almost no people around and few boats in the
water — in stark contrast to our morning marina scene a
few miles away — despite it being a beautiful holiday
Stockton is a well-kept secret.
finally found a couple of guys who looked like city rec
workers, sitting in a golf cart in front of a big
equipment shed. I told them I’d heard kayak rentals were
available in the area — was I wrong?"
said one of the men, pointing a thumb backward. "We
got them right here."
told that when summer really kicks in, this area will be
lively, but on this particular day, it was very quiet
indeed. The men generously loaded up the cart with two
kayaks, took us over to the boat ramp and out we went.
kayaked before, but certainly not when we had most of an
urban waterfront to ourselves. The juxtaposition of river
recreation to large buildings and a baseball stadium was
fascinating — especially as the minor league Stockton
Ports were playing a game on the other side of the water.
It was fun paddling around while listening to the crowd
and the announcer.
paddled up and down a few side channels, seeing a
fascinating variety of boats in the main harbor. In
addition to all the modern maritime vessels, there were a
couple that could have passed for old pirate ships. All in
all, it was a low-pressure couple of hours for amateur
kayakers. Even if there had been many sport boats about,
they’d have to slow down to kayak-pleasing speeds around
guys came back to the ramp when we were done, plucking our
vessels from the water and giving us a history lesson on
the area on the way back. Stockton’s waterfront is
terribly busy during the weekend during the summer, they
said, we were just early in the season. But it’s also
obvious that there’s going to be a lot of potential in
this place where downtown meets Delta.
another yacht outing is in order.
Downtown Marina: 445 W. Weber Ave. and 333 Tuleburg Levee,
Stockton; 209-462-4200; www.visitstockton.org. Kayak
rentals are available from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily
and cost $10 per hour.
West Marina: 6649 Embarcadero Drive, Stockton,
www.villagewestmarina.com. Details about the Island Oasis
can be found at www.islandoasisdeltacruises.com. Prices
vary for cruises. We paid $286 for an overnight stay.
eats: Garlic Brothers Restaurant at the Village West
Marina offers a wide variety of food and drink, including
seafood, pizza and lots of salads. There’s live music on
weekends, so if you want to converse, get there early in
the evening and get a table outside. Details: 6629
Embarcadero Drive, Stockton
breakfast, Bob’s at the Marina has everything from
chicken-fried steak and eggs to chili cheese omelets.
There’s also a yummy lunch menu that includes burgers,
hot dogs, chili and fish tacos. Details: 6639 Embarcadero